Kabul American University professor relieved to be back in France


Victoria Fontan is back at her home in Nice, after being evacuated from Kabul amid the chaos.

A week ago, she risked her life in Afghanistan, refusing to leave before putting as many students as possible to safety.

The 45-year-old vice president of academic affairs at the American University of Afghanistan was removed from Kabul on Saturday (August 21). She slept on a cot at the airport, eating French army rations.

She arrived in Nice the next day, accompanied by her friend Darren, deputy director of security at the university,

“We are happy to have slipped through the cracks,” she said.

“I’m happy to be here, even though it feels weird. This morning I went for a run along the boardwalk, but since I got home I’ve been glued to my desk 12 hours a day. “

This week, she watched with concern from Nice a series of explosions outside Kabul International Airport.

For two and a half years, Ms. Fontan, originally from the department of Ille-et-Vilaine in Brittany, has looked after the 950 students of the university, from 34 Afghan provinces.

The university was attacked in 2016. Twelve people lost their lives.

Ms Fontan, who is also an associate professor of peace and conflict studies at the university, admits that she “did not see the Taliban’s lightning takeover coming.”

Its campus is now in the hands of the group.

She posted a photo on Twitter last Friday (August 20) of a young Taliban gunman posing for her with a smile.

“He could have been one of my students, maybe one day. Education changes lives, promotes peace and, more importantly, creates a safe environment for diversity and inclusion,” he said. -she writes.

Now, 6,700 kilometers away, in her apartment in Nice, Ms. Fontan has the heavy task of prioritizing the evacuations of her students.

“I feel like I am deciding whether people will live or die. It’s horrible, ”she said.

The emails she receives from students break her heart. One of them wrote to say that she is not afraid of being killed, but of something worse.

“She is afraid of being tortured, humiliated in front of her family, that her body will hang from a lamppost for weeks on end. I get emails like this all day,” Ms. Fontan said.

She said that in the future there would be deaths.

“There will be abuses, targeted assassinations, aimed at frightening or terrorizing people.

“They won’t kill everyone, they need educated people to rule. But they are going to kill enough of them for the others to behave well, ”she said.

Victoria does not give up. She fights for Darren, her English friend, who has been refused entry to Tunisia, where his girlfriend is.

She is already trying to prepare for the start of the school year.

Her daughter, Hermine, 14, supports her mother’s work and is proud of what she does.

Ms. Fontan was also able to count on the support of her partner, who runs a real estate agency in Nice, and her friends back in Nice.

She notes with bitterness that the Taliban have succeeded.

They will build a “Disneyland of terrorism,” she said.

“We must continue to nurture Afghan dissent in European countries so that the next generation is there.

“We must not abandon Afghanistan. We have to show that all these years have been mismanaged but that together we can do better. This is not the end.”

This article was originally published on the Nice-Matin site on August 26 and was written by Grégory Leclerc

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